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Lobbying PUC Commissioners

October 28, 1986

I applaud The Times for its editorial (Oct. 16), "Talking Too Much," urging the California Public Utilities Commission to hurry up and establish a rule on disclosure of ex parte contacts.

A new law, AB 3383, mandates that the proposed case decisions written by the commission's administrative law judges be made public 30 days before the commission takes action on them. In the absence of a policy controlling ex parte communications with commissioners, parties unhappy with the proposed draft decisions will spend the 30 days barraging the commission with off-the-record lobbying.

The commission urgently needs a policy to cope with the ex parte problem. At a minimum, it should require that a person who lobbies a commissioner on a pending case must report the activity to all the other parties participating in the proceeding.

The commission needs an effective ex parte rule to ensure both inherent fairness and public perception of fairness in its decisions. Substantial public and private sector legal expense is entailed in the conduct of the commission's formal proceedings.

Literally tens of millions of dollars are expended in developing these detailed formal case records. The commission is legally bound to base its decision of a case on the formal public record.

Yet up to now, the commission has not been able to agree on a policy to control off-the-record lobbying of commissioners on a private basis without the knowledge of other case participants or the opportunity for rebuttal.

From time to time, the commission has allowed its administrative law judges to adopt ex parte rules in individual cases, but it has set no uniform policy and most of its cases are conducted in the absence of such rules.

Without a uniform operational ex parte rule, the commission will always remain vulnerable to accusations that a controversial decision was tainted by off-the-record private communications or lobbying of commissioners while the case was pending.

PRISCILLA C. GREW

Oakland

Grew has been a PUC commissioner since 1981 and will be leaving office at the end of this month.

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